Contemporary art shines at New York's Armory Show

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New York's annual Armory Show, the biggest window on contemporary art in the United States, has opened with hopes of injecting energy and cash into the city's recession-hit art scene.

"This fair shows the vitality and internationalism of New York. All these exhibitions are part of what makes New York so exciting," said Glenn Lowry, director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

The Armory Show, which is partnered by MoMA, features 300 galleries exhibiting in the huge hangar-like buildings on two jetties on the Hudson River in Manhattan.

On Wednesday there were already thousands of visitors taking part in the invitation-only opening events, which are reserved for collectors, critics, galleries and museums. The show is open to the public until Sunday, and 60,000 people are expected.

Some 30 countries are represented in this year's show, including 20 Berlin galleries.

"We wanted to celebrate the energy of Berlin. Every fair has to find ways to make it exciting for visitors," Katelijne Debacker, executive director of the Armory Show.

In addition to the Armory Show there are 10 shows taking place at the same time around the city, including for the first time a Korean Art Show, with more than 20 Seoul galleries represented. There is also Dutch Art Now.

The Armory Show long has been a chance for collectors and dealers to find cutting-edge work, and this year's batch brings something for everyone: from hyper-realism to abstract expressionism, from traditional oil painting to more experimental methods.

The more exclusive sections of the Armory house top galleries, some of them featuring major 20th century works that could sell for as much as five million dollars. But on other stands, photos, collages, videos and other works go for as little as 5,000 dollars.

The recession that started last year put a huge hole in the over-inflated art market, but the results are not all bad. Many at the Armory Show say that lower rents have contributed to a burst of artistic activity.

New York based art advisor Todd Levin said the Armory Show was a chance for those artists to shine.

"It's 'American Idol' for the visual arts", he told Art Newspaper. "It's like a talent show. Lots of people want to appear on a New York platform. Most perform badly but a few will rise to the top."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg also hailed a chance for the city to profit.

"New York City is home to the world's most vibrant and diverse arts and cultural community, and this growing week of events underscores that," he said in a statement.

"This year, we expect it to generate nearly 44 million dollars in economic activity and the timing couldn't be any better."

Debacker said times were improving in the sector, if not exactly back to their heady past.

"Is the recession over? No, but it's slowly moving back up again. Art is selling again, although it will never be like three years ago", she said.